The latest project of cineaste André D’Elia, director of the documentaries The Water Law and Old Lord Savanna, is currently being edited, and it was recently featured in an article in Folha de S.Paulo. Take a look:

New documentary about the tragedy of Mariana predicts Brumadinho

Amigo do Rei (The King’s Friend) by André D’Elia will arrive at cinemas this year.

Feb. 9 2019 12:00 am

Naief Haddad

SÃO PAULO In September 2016, Carlos Eduardo Ferreira Pinto, a public prosecutor in Minas Gerais, gave an interview to the crew of the documentary The King’s Friend. At the time, he was a member of the task force responsible for investigating the bursting of the Fundão dam in the city of Mariana.

In addition to destroying most of the neighborhood of Bento Rodrigues and killing 19 people, the leaking of residues polluted the Doce River all the way to the ocean in Espirito Santo, making it the largest environmental disaster in the history of Brazil.

For those who don’t remember, Fundao belongs to Samarco, a company controlled by Vale and the English-Australian firm BHP Billiton.

“The question is not whether a new disaster is going to occur,’ says Ferreira Pinto in the film, emphasizing the word “if.” Next to a wall covered in mud in Bento Rodrigues, he continued. “The question is when there’s going to be a new disaster.”

Faced with another dam bursting, this time in Brumadinho, in the same state, the impact of the prosecutor’s statement becomes stronger.

Seen firsthand by this reporter last week, The King’s Friend is directed by Andre D’Elia, who has specialized in films with socio-environmental themes.

The cineaste concluded the final cut of his documentary about Mariana on January 24 – it just needs some post-production touches. The next day, in a terrible coincidence, the country learned of a new tragedy with the bursting of a Vale dam in Brumadinho. At the time of this article, the death toll has risen to 157.

During its 2 hours and 20 minutes, The King’s Friend points out some of the reasons for the accident in Mariana and shows the scale of negligence after that episode. To accomplish this, D’Elia got testimony from specialists in various areas, such as geology, civil engineering and biology.

These commentaries make it clear that the bad news of Mariana in no way contributed to reinforcing the safety of the dams. There was no effective mobilization by mining companies, or the prosecutor’s office for that matter. Experts even see a worsening of the situation in some aspects. In other words, what happened at Brumadinho was no surprise.

The director also entered into contact with the press offices of Samarco and the Mayor of Mariana, but received no responses.

With its premiere scheduled for the second half of this year, the film also registers the dramatic situation of many of the victims, including those who lived in Bento Rodrigues as well as those who live on the banks of the Doce River.

“I thought no one would pay attention to my film. Who is going to watch a documentary about politics and mining? Suddenly, this happened [the bursting of the Brumadinho dam]. It was good for the film’s release, that I can’t deny, but there’s no way to feel happy about what happened,” he says.

With a small crew, D’Elia made six expeditions to the affected regions in Minas Gerais and Espirito Santo between the beginning of 2016 and the first few months of 2017.

During this phase of filming, he was shocked when he first arrived at what’s left of the village of Bento Rodrigues. “I was shocked by the carnage. It looked like an atomic bomb had exploded there,” he remembers. “I even threw all my equipment on the ground because I felt that the camera wouldn’t do justice to capturing the scale of the destruction.”

Obviously, nothing can compare with visiting the place. But one has to recognize the vigor of the images in The King’s Friend. The scenes change, but the color doesn’t. The mud is impregnated in the destroyed walls, the spaces that once were back yards, and the dead fish in the Doce River.

One of the director’s main objectives was to interview Priscila Monteiro, a young woman from the village, who barely escaped from the deadly sea of residues.

D’Elia sent her several messages, but got no reply in return. When he went to Bento Rodrigues to film an interview with another survivor, he ran into Monteiro by chance.

In the film, she tells us she was pregnant when the tragedy occurred, which led her to lose the baby. Her niece also died in the disaster.

Arthur, the son of Maria do Carmo, walks in the midst of the mud that isolated their house in Mariana in 2015; today at the age of 7 he is afraid that the residues from Mariana will come back Personal Archive

“As long as I am on the Earth, I will be here,” says Monteiro. The cineaste tells us that various ex-residents continue to visit the locale. “It’s a personal issue that I cannot judge, but their going there impresses me. What most shocked me were these points without an answer.”

Mysteries surround the film. The denouncements make their presence felt. D’Elia is adept at what he terms ‘stone throwing cinema.’ “It’s when cinema turns into a tool for social mobilization and political articulation. Art should be related to the reality that exists to promote change in the real world,” he adds in explaining his concept.

His three previous feature films, such as Old Lord Savanna (2018), have all adopted this forceful approach. However, the film has no party affiliation, says D’Elia.

The King’s Friend was born as part of an information project for the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Minas Gerais. The funding of R$ 800 thousand is the result of a TAC (terms of an adjustment in conduct) being fulfilled by a mining company which has been sued by the Justice Department.

Despite the film’s ties to prosecutors, the director says he had complete autonomy in editing the film. “The Prosecutor’s Office cannot make political use out of a communication instrument.”

If politics does not appear from this angle, it appears in other forms. In The King’s Friend, D’Elia introduces a fictional narrative, which involves the Congressman Rey Naldo (Luciano Chirolli) as the protagonist. He’s the one who represents the promiscuous ties between the political class and the mining companies.

Rey Naldo is inspired by a series of politicians. The viewer can choose who should wear the hood.

Born in São Paulo, he began his career in cinema, assisting productions about skateboarding. From there he moved onto environmental documentaries. His first feature film was Belo Monte – Announcement of a War (2011) which took four years to be completed. In the following years, he directed The Water Law (2015) and Old Lord Savanna (2018). He also made the video “Demarcation Now” (2017). He is the head of the Cindelia production company, which has done various projects in partnership with O2.